Dumped by her boyfriend and dissed by her academic advisor, disconsolate graduate student Nora Fischer wanders off a beaten mountain path smack-dab into a parallel universe seemingly populated by glamorous refugees from a Fellini film. Every night is party night for the suddenly and inexplicably gorgeous Nora, who is the unwitting victim of numerous spells cast by Ilissa, her mentor/captor and the undisputed leader of the glamorous gang. Married off to Ilissa’s son, who harbors a brutally dark secret, she realizes too late that all is not as it seems beneath the shining veneer of her new world. Making her escape with the aid of an enigmatic wizard who tutors her in magic, she becomes increasingly drawn to him and faces a tough choice when an opportunity to slip back through the portal to her former life presents itself. This dark fairy tale has plenty of curb appeal for a wide range of fantasy, time-travel, and alternate-reality fans. --Margaret Flanagan
“Centered on more adult concerns than the Harry Potter books, Barker’s debut is full of allusions to dark fairy tales and literary romances. If Hermione Granger had been an American who never received an invitation to Hogwarts, this might have been her story.”
"A marvelous plot, clever dialogue, and complex characters distinguish The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic. With the intimacy of a classic fairy-tale and the rollicking elements of modern epic fantasy, Emily Croy Barker’s delightful debut will sweep readers into another world. Fun, seductive, and utterly engrossing, this wonderful tale of magic and adventure is a perfect escape from humdrum reality."
—Deborah Harkness, author of the All Souls Trilogy
"To read The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic is to enter a lush, fantastical dream filled with beauty and strangeness, love and cruelty, playfulness and gravitas. Emily Barker has crafted a wholly imaginative and witty debut novel that is unlike any I've read. Mind candy for those of us raised on Harry Potters!"
—Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants
“Think of this book as Hermione Granger: The Grad School Years. An entertaining tale capably told.”
“Barker weaves together classic fantasy and romantic elements (including shout-outs to Pride and Prejudice and hints of Wuthering Heights) to produce a well-rounded, smooth, and subtle tale.”
"Like in Harkness’s work, as the novel closes, Barker leaves Nora poised on the brink of a decision that could lead to another adventure. This reviewer can’t wait. . . . Readers who love magical fantasy adventures with strong female protagonists will enjoy Barker’s novel. And fans of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians may also want to try this.
"This dark fairy tale has plenty of curb appeal for a wide range of fantasy, time-travel, and alternate-reality fans."
“The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic is a medieval fairy tale with a deliciously dark twist . . . a thoroughly enchanting read. . . . Barker has spun a clever, lush yarn that is uniquely its own.”
“The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic embraces many of the things that make portal stories so perennial, with just enough twists that it seems to be in conversation with some of its forebears . . . and . . . suggest[s] deeper issues of power and gender waiting to be explored.”
"Emily Croy Barker has written a sophisticated fairy tale that has one foot through the looking glass and the other squarely planted in the real world. Both classic and wholly original, The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic is an imaginative synthesis of the stories that delighted us as children and the novels that inspired us as adults."
—Ivy Pochoda, author of Visitation Street
“'I wish my life were different. I don’t care how.' So begins perpetual grad student and recently jilted Nora Fischer’s grand adventure into a wonderfully imaginative world of illusion and real magic that reveals the importance of a curious and open mind, learning and love. Author Emily Croy Barker has great fun toying with our ever-shifting notions of work, beauty, belonging, and reality—creating a delightful book for anyone longing to escape the everyday (and who isn’t?!)."
—Karen Engelmann, author of The Stockholm Octavo
“A clever and scrumptious debut fantasy, the kind you happily disappear into for days.”
—Kelly Link, author of Magic for Beginners